Hidden Leaf's Living Weapon
A/N: Unintended consequences. Exploring them is the lifeblood of fanfiction writers.
The day of the Chuunin Selection Finals finally arrived. It was a beautiful morning. Even someone like Akuma could appreciate it.
He wasn't permitted out inside Konoha very often during the day, even with his ANBU mask firmly in place. Indeed, as far as he could remember, this would make his seventh morning out in public.
Today he was assigned to guard the Fire Daimyo's box…by personal request from the Fire Lord himself. It made Akuma more than a bit proud that his reputation had spread as well as it had.
Of course, Akuma wasn't exactly supposed to have feelings of pride…or any feeling at all. But he still did.
Akuma – otherwise known as Demon, the only name he'd ever been granted – nodded when the Fire Daimyo and his entourage arrived. That was all the more he ever interacted with his clients.
Five minutes later, the tournament director appeared and the first match got underway. A Rain ninja versus one from Hidden Grass. It wasn't much to speak of, but it seemed to interest the Daimyo.
Akuma wondered how these ninja trained for so long and achieved so little. He himself was barely thirteen years of age and had been conducting solo assassinations for seven years. This tournament, had he been called to participate, would have been no challenge at all.
As a youngling, though, getting used to this way of life…had been a challenge. It was good to be strong; it was terrible to remember being weak.
The four year old child awoke when someone knocked on his cell door. He roused himself for bed and hoped that breakfast would be more filling today.
But instead of the normal routine, the nameless boy saw a masked man standing in the doorway to his…room.
"Today you begin to earn your keep, Akuma. You must train to become strong, to defend us all. Do you understand?"
"I want to help," the boy said. He always got more food when he seemed agreeable.
"Good. The man with a mask like a badger will teach you to strengthen your body. The woman with the mask like a swan will teach you to strengthen your mind, to write and read. And, after you eat, the man with the weasel mask will teach you about chakra and how to make it work for us, for Konoha."
The boy nodded. "I understand." But he didn't.
"Here is your breakfast. Take ten minutes. The guard will bring you to the training field then."
The boy descended upon the food like a starving rat. He didn't care what he needed to do as long as they fed him better.
Nine hours later, bloody and battered, he wondered if it might be better to starve. Then only his belly would hurt…unlike now. His hand really hurt. That badger man had punched him three times in his head. And his foot and ankle hurt on his left side.
Perhaps it would be better to starve.
Anything would be better than this. No one spoke to him. And he didn't get more food. And 'molding chakra' hurt. Was he too young?
He didn't know where he was. Or why he was here. It didn't make any sense….
Thinking made his head hurt even more than it already did. The boy ate his gruel, noticed that his wounds had stopped bleeding, and fell into bed, dead to the world.
The second match began. A Leaf ninja, a Hyuuga, versus a kunoichi from Hidden Sand. A close range specialist versus a distance attacker. It was an odd match up, but the Hyuuga had quite a few tricks to keep from losing.
The Fire Daimyo leaned forward in his seat, his curiosity clear from every movement he made. He wasn't a ninja, didn't know much about them, but liked how they battled…particularly the ones who lived in his country.
He didn't even realize that the enemy was already here…in his country…inside this stadium.
No one in charge of Hidden Leaf trusted the Daimyo with secrets…and the Daimyo didn't trust Hidden Leaf with whatever bits and pieces he collected.
The man…all too mortal…just leaned forward and enjoyed the sight of a Hyuuga's blood spilling all over the arena floor.
He knew nothing.
He didn't recognize how beautiful the day was…how special the breeze blowing through the stands was…how nice it was to be alive and free.
It wasn't Akuma's place to tell the Daimyo. The man would learn the lesson or not: life is fragile.
Akuma watched as the medics took the Hyuuga from the arena. He was likely repairable, but he had suffered a few devastating hits even when he was performing a nearly flawless Kaiten.
Elemental attacks, well performed, could be very powerful. But there were more things out there than what these little genin knew of.
It was the dead of night, but it didn't stop a masked man from knocking on Akuma's cell door with the hilt of a sword. Within seconds, Akuma woke up and prepared himself. Missions often came in the dead of night.
A minute later, the badger-masked man unrolled a scroll. "Akuma, the Council and the Hokage have assigned you a mission. Uchiha Itachi has betrayed Konoha by assassinating nearly every member of his former clan. You are to hunt him down and destroy him. Any questions?"
"Weasel-san?" His trainer for the last two years.
This would be his first assassination mission. Usually he was told to destroy buildings. He had certainly killed before getting to his objectives, but this was the first time getting to a person was the objective.
Weasel-san was very strong, too. Able to beat Akuma every time they sparred hand-to-hand. It was a good thing Akuma didn't rely on the sword they gave him or the jutsu they taught him. He knew about his special powers; he had built special techniques in his mind that no one knew about. They sent him out alone on missions so he'd been able to test them…and no one still living was the wiser.
It took about five hours of rapid travel to catch up to where Itachi had bunkered down for the night, in a cave well away from any roads, but just barely inside Fire Country.
Akuma took thirty minutes to assess the cave. It was obviously trapped, but crudely. After all, it seemed Weasel-san hadn't planned to commit this atrocity on his clan; he hadn't packed to run and hide.
An hour before daybreak, Akuma was ready to act. He gathered up a hundred small and medium sized stones. Then he pushed his red chakra…the chakra he never let any of his trainers or jailors observe…into the stones. The technique transformed them and distorted them into massive creatures, semi-intelligent creatures.
A dozen massive foxes, each just taller than Akuma…two dozen wolves…twenty demonic raccoons…and more than thirty multi-tailed dogs. It was quite a pack. His trainers would never trust Akuma with a real summoning contract, even though many of them used summons frequently on missions or during training sessions. (Or so they bragged after the fact in places where Akuma could overhear.)
"There are many traps inside that cavern. Disable or destroy them. The target inside is very strong. Overwhelm him in numbers. Bind him hand and foot…and remove his eyes. You have five minutes."
As his legion of demonic constructs moved toward the cavern, Akuma began gathering up more stones in case he needed a second wave.
The sounds from the cavern were intense. The traps were hastily erected, but it was a surprise that some or all of the explosions hadn't brought the cave down altogether.
The five minutes passed…and the cavern was silent.
Akuma made another five demonic constructs and sent them off to scout. It took ten more minutes for the all-clear.
Akuma loped off to the cavern. The inside was just as bad as he'd expected. Traps had exploded or turned to acid. All that remained of the great bulk of his invading force were small broken stones littered over the floor of the cave. When his constructs lost their chakra, they reverted to their base material; a broken construct turned into a shattered stone.
When he arrived at the end, only twelve constructs remained…and nearly half of them were from the second wave.
Even surprised, alone, and disoriented, Uchiha Itachi was a powerful opponent. Bits of black flame littered the periphery. Akuma was somewhat familiar with the technique, so he stayed far away from it.
It was good he was blind and restrained by demonic constructs. The longer they touched Weasel-san the more his own chakra pathways were poisoned, the more they rotted away.
"Why did you betray Konoha?" Akuma asked. It wasn't part of the mission, but he did want to understand.
"I tested myself. I was strong; they were weak."
"Strength is the only thing that matters to you?"
Itachi said nothing.
"I beat you, Itachi. I am stronger than you. What does that mean?"
"You should kill me. You were made for this. Twisted even better than I was; stronger than I can ever be. Test yourself, monster; test all of them. It is the only way to survive."
"I cannot do anything without the Council's permission and the Hokage's signature…."
"He's a tool, captive to the whims of those a hundred times weaker than him. He should slaughter them all. He never wanted this for you, you know, the Sandaime. He wanted you to be raised as a child, not as an ANBU. Once they got their hooks into you, demon, they kept him on a short leash…threatening to execute you should he step out of line. He could kill a thousand councilmembers, but he doesn't. He's old, his body is still strong, but it's his mind – his will – that's weak. He did this to you; all of Hidden Lead did this. And you, Akuma, are stronger than all of them. Superior. You can break your chains whenever you choose…."
"I have much to learn," Akuma said.
"You must teach yourself. The weaklings who pretend to control you haven't been able to improve your skills in years. I know they didn't teach you how to control those…those creatures you sent in here."
"They are my creation. I will think on what you've said. But, for now, goodbye."
A sword, formed purely from demonic chakra, sliced cleanly through Itachi's body. Per standard policy, Akuma searched Itachi's body and discovered little. A few empty storage scrolls; no additional food or clothing or jutsu scrolls.
Through the raving, Akuma hadn't learned much about why Itachi had done what he did. But some of the conversation was worth mulling over.
Weasel-san, while a bastard as a trainer, and a traitor, had some good deal of intelligence. Akuma rejected nothing he learned in the field until he subjected it to rigorous analysis.
That S-class mission had been far more theoretically difficult than any of these pitiful matches…even if Itachi had underperformed under the onslaught of a vicious ambush.
The third match, between a female from Hidden Mist and a rather young-looking genin from Hidden Leaf, had been interesting. The boy had used nothing except taijutsu and had a good deal of speed. It was a short match.
The Fire Daimyo popped open a bottle of sake while the fourth match was getting set up.
Eventually it began. A Hidden Sound ninja was paired up against the Last Uchiha, the only one Itachi had spared. The boy didn't look like much, always ranting on about how he wanted to avenge his clan by killing his brother. The people who ordered Itachi's death had never released that the deed was done…and they certainly never announced how they had done it.
The Uchiha had a few skills…and an active Sharingan. Interesting.
However, in the grand scheme, it wouldn't matter. Danzo had planned out everything to happen to today. He'd apparently been cooperating with Orochimaru for some time…and a coalition that stretched from Kumo to Iwa to Suna. Only Kiri seemed to be missing. Three of the Great Shinobi Countries allied with Orochimaru to destroy Hidden Leaf.
It sent shivers down Akuma's back. He knew a lot about all the other Elemental Nations. He'd performed operations everywhere, but no where more than Iwa. It was a surprise they were helping Danzo's loose alliance…but perhaps they didn't know of anything beyond Orochimaru's orchestration.
Politics still confused Akuma.
He was more of a 'kill everything and let the pieces rot' sort of ninja.
His first mission to Iwa came when Akuma was…likely…ten years old. He didn't know his age for certain, although he tended to get new equipment and clothing every October 10th.
Again, the masked man came in the night. Again he had a scroll from the Council, signed by their captive Hokage, the cowardly Sarutobi.
"Raiders have been pushing into Fire Country from the village of Ko Re on the Earth side of the border. Neutralize all threats. Burn the facilities down."
Akuma nodded and gathered his tools.
It took until late the next evening to arrive at his target. Akuma spent an hour cautiously surveying. There were no civilians left, only shinobi.
His best count put the facilities as fit for fifty or sixty shinobi. He saw twenty on patrol rounds. So that left at least thirty resting or on a raid. Assuming he could trust what he saw.
Akuma never forgot the cave that Itachi had trapped. Akuma treated every situation as a trap until proven otherwise. After all, this was his seventy-first A- or S-ranked mission done solo…his seventy-first suicide mission…yet another hopeful attempt by the Council to see that Akuma did not return to home base.
He knew this, he recognized it, and still he completed every mission without injury. Had he relied upon what he'd been taught, he never would have lived to kill Uchiha Itachi.
This new mission…appeared…to be simple, but Akuma always assumed he was being lied to. After all, these missions were designed by people who wished him harm. Why wouldn't they misstate what was going on?
He spent ten minutes gathering up a few hundred bits of rock…which was, of course, plentiful in Earth Country. It took just a minute to have a massive invasion force of demonic wolves, dogs, foxes, raccoons, and all other manner of creatures.
One minute later, Akuma realized the innocent looking village was indeed a trap. He'd sent four hundred demonic constructs against an assumed force of fifty or so…instead he had more than three hundred shinobi now on the field. Somehow they'd been hiding inside…or underneath…the buildings in this village, just waiting.
Like a trap for stupid insects…a jar of sake to attract flies…it worked perfectly.
Akuma had riled up a hive and now he needed to deal with it. Uchiha Itachi had required nearly eighty demonic constructs in a closed environment. Akuma had planned to have an eight-to-one advantage in this situation…which was now reduced to less than two-to-one. It was a bad situation to be in.
He swirled his demonic chakra outward and formed up another hundred or hundred and fifty constructs. Those went off as reinforcements.
But with the way these people in Earth Country were prepared, he'd need more than simple semi-intelligent drones.
It was time to reveal another use for demonic chakra he'd been working on: the genjutsu to end genjutsu.
He pulled up enough chakra to make five hundred constructs and then funneled it outward toward the minds of everyone within three kilometers. He had not tested this against people, so he hoped it would work. Within seconds, the attacking forces were on the ground retching their guts out.
It was quite something to be trapped in a personal genjutsu where a demonic fox…or a demonic badger…or whatever creature the person most fears bears down on them, tormenting them, releasing enough demonic chakra to petrify an army…but having it all directed at a single soul.
The longer the illusion went on, the more horrifying it became. The demon began to eat its victim, slowly, surely. But it didn't finish or stop…no, it took a leg as an appetizer and then went after the victim's family and friends, eating them, too, slowly and surely. Agonizing days of torture passed in minutes.
More than one person's heart exploded from the torture. It did not matter, however, as Akuma gathered up more stones, a thousand or more, and converted them into constructs. Immobilized targets were much easier to kill.
After the experimental genjutsu settled the problem, Akuma took a few hours to search the camp. He discovered the underground bunkers…the very things that allowed Earth to pack three hundred into spaces that looked fit for barely fifty.
This was a grand type of trap. Little annoying raids sent out, no stealth about it at all. It was designed to lure a few teams here, perhaps even one of Hidden Leaf's best rock-and-roll demolition teams. Who would be massacred by unexpected strength. Even a team of seven jounins, twice as many as would be sent out on a mission like this, wouldn't survive an encounter with three hundred enemies.
No…Earth Country wanted a war. This entire village was designed to collect dead Hidden Leaf bodies, to build a pretext for restarting war. To make it seem like Hidden Stone was goaded into declaring war, rather than a bunch of war hawks salivating for combat. That much was clear…and these dead men and women were the bait and the trap.
It was Akuma's first time operating in Earth Country, but he didn't expect it was his last. Not by a long shot.
He gathered up the bodies with his constructs and threw them into the bunkers. He used the exploding notes he found stockpiled, along with the diesel fuel used to power the electrical generator. It wasn't hard to cobble together several very powerful incinerating bombs. He would leave no traces, no signs of what happened here. The bodies and the bones would be ash long before any reinforcements or scouts or forensic technicians arrived.
Akuma loped away from the scenes after dispelling the demonic chakra from the rocks he'd selected. Five minutes later and fifteen miles away, Akuma turned back when he felt and saw the explosion. It was a good deal larger than he'd expected. There must have been hidden underground fuel tanks that went up…and continued to feed the explosion.
He turned around and continued his day's journey back to Hidden Lead, back to his handlers, his meager portions of food, and his cell with a door, by his standards, so flimsy he could rip it off its hinges.
Why did he go back? He wasn't sure really. He was waiting for something. A sign perhaps.
The fifth match was nothing much, one of those fluke rounds that sometimes appear. It was an embarrassing pairing between a rather timid girl from Hidden Mist and a still-wounded boy from Hidden Sound. One or the other should have removed themselves from the match…but neither did. It was not impressive to watch.
Akuma continued his surveillance. No one in ROOT thought Akuma knew as much as he did…after all, he rarely spoke to anyone anymore. Perhaps some assumed he didn't have a mind any longer; just a body that slaughtered on command. No one had told him about the invasion or how ROOT was supporting it or how ROOT would eventually betray its partners.
They would just give him an order eventually and tell him to do something. 'Go assassinate the Hokage.' 'Kill off the civilian council members; this is a bloody military village; they have no rights!' 'The invaders are retreating. Destroy Suna's warriors.' 'Orochimaru was here. Find him and kill him.'
But ROOT had made the blessed mistake of training Akuma in intelligence gathering. He knew as much of what was really happening in this village as anyone here.
He had known of Orochimaru's intention to betray ROOT; Orochimaru's rather incautious spies were quite sure their leader had no intention of leaving anything standing for Danzo to preside over after the battle. Akuma had known of Iwa's secret participation…donating Hidden Stone techniques to the invaders. And of the 'Hidden Waterfall' ninja who actually came from Lightning Country.
He wondered if the ROOT hierarchy knew this as well. Akuma hadn't been ordered to do intelligence gathering so he reported none of his findings or suspicions.
He never spoke about what he knew or suspected. If anyone realized Akuma wasn't a dumb beast of burden, who knew what might happen? Attempted poisonings? Even more insane missions?
Akuma was twelve years old when he received his most disturbing mission to date. Danzo himself appeared early one morning.
"Walk with me, little Devil. I have need of your skills."
It sounded like a mission so Akuma rose from the bed where he was resting.
"We have tried to recreate the success we've had with you in other orphans. Unfortunately, save for two experiments, the rest are failures. I need you to…clean all this up.
"That door there, all the failures are in there. Leave no traces behind, understand?"
When Akuma walked inside, he saw twenty-eight children there ranging from six to ten years of age. Without hesitation, he killed each of them before any of them realized an attack was underway. He piled up the bodies and set them to burning.
He showed no signs of discomfort or revulsion. Those feelings he kept tightly inside his mind.
Five minutes later, Akuma walked out covered in the smell of burning.
He added this to his already long tally. "Why Akuma is a Monster; Why ROOT is Worse Than the Devil."
It was a tally that someone would have to pay for…sometime.
The sixth match – the end of the first round – began with a bang. Literally. A small, red-headed boy literally crushed his opponent from Hidden Leaf and then began to transform into…a demonic dog? Or was it a raccoon?
A genjutsu settled over the weak-minded fools in the stadium.
Akuma stepped forward and, with a blade of demonic chakra, beheaded the Fire Daimyo and his entire entourage.
Then he hopped down a level and destroyed the civilian council members. He hopped away to watch the rest of the invasion…and waited for the sound of an explosion.
When it came a few minutes later, Akuma smiled.
Danzo had made Akuma into a monster…after bribing the Council and subverting the Hokage. Danzo had made Akuma slaughter the guilty and the innocent; had made Akuma run one hundred thirty-six solo missions under almost impossible circumstances.
Now, with the clever use of a fuel-air bomb left in his 'room' at ROOT headquarters, Akuma had made Danzo dead. The coward would surely remain in hiding so long as the invasion's battles were in progress. The mad man never got his hand bloody. That detonation took care of everyone there. Not even ash would remain once the fire died down in a few hours. It would all be gone, every experiment, every mission report, every drop of blood split in there at the training grounds.
Akuma sat back and watched the Hidden Leaf, apparently unaware and unprepared for invasion, try to defend itself against the combined infiltration teams from many of its former allies and sworn enemies.
Akuma saw Orochimaru battling with the weak Sandaime Hokage. He saw that demonic sand dog tearing its way through apartment buildings, shops, and everything else. He saw the village beginning to burn. It wasn't time to act yet.
When the Sandaime sacrificed his life, he didn't end Orochimaru's. Akuma sprung into action. As a violently angry Snake Sannin was prepared to leave, he toppled over to a demonic illusion. The shinobi's four body guards tried to move their leader, but they were trapped in the illusion just as soon as they touched Orochimaru.
They would be trapped for as long as their bodies held up to the punishment…or until a demon with more power than the Kyuubi released them. There were more powerful demons…but none of them possessed the ability to journey to this plane of existence. And Orochimaru wouldn't make a pact with a shinigami or attempt to make one with kami. He was trapped.
The rest of the invasion was glorious chaos. Akuma eventually joined in, first attacking one side and then switching to the other.
He had been of two minds about this attack ever since he had uncovered it. He should want to protect his home by slaying the invaders…but he should also want to avenge what had been done to him by the leaders of Hidden Leaf. He had learned only recently his true name, Namikaze Naruto, and his legacy as the only son of the Fourth Fire Shadow.
These people had done this to the son of their greatest leader. They deserved everything they would get…as did those who dared to attack.
Akuma…err, Naruto…had decided that the fairest tactic was to level the village and everyone inside it, ninja, civilian, man, woman, child. Everyone deserved to perish for what they'd done…or failed to do.
He bounded over to where the sand dog was attacking. The beast was almost outside the village walls…so he'd outlived his usefulness. Time to test another theoretical technique.
Akuma…err, Naruto, it was hard to adjust to a different name after so long knowing only one…gathered up his demonic chakra and directed it at the sand monster. "Demonic Arts: Sand to Fire Torment."
The massive sand dog…or sand raccoon…immediately transformed grain by grain into a flaming mass. The demon container, that crazed red-haired boy, was immediately incinerated…and then the demon's power in this realm was destroyed.
The flames didn't disappear though. They began the cleansing fire that would destroy Konoha.
Akuma leapt through the forest hamstringing ninja who were fleeing. He wanted everyone around for the main event.
Three hours after the attack began, Konoha was engulfed in smoke and fire.
Half the population was still alive but no one could leave through the flames. That was when Akuma…err, Naruto…hopped to the top of the Hokage Tower and began the final act.
"You create a monster out of a savior…and you get a monster. Behold, the Kyuubi in all his demonic glory."
The Kyuubi had been the most powerful of the Earth-stranded demons because of his unlimited supply of chakra. Now, Akuma used that to his advantage. He poured out enough demonic chakra to equal the power of three full armies. Slowly but surely the chakra began to coalesce into a solid shape, a terrifying shape.
The Kyuubi…completely under Akuma's control…was reborn. It immediately unleashed its tails in every direction, leaving more fire, more smoke, more devastation in its wake.
It took less than three minutes for Konoha to disappear. All the houses, the Hokage Monument, all the training grounds, even the Forest of Death (which is where the ROOT headquarters were built underground).
When Akuma left the smouldering ruins, he wondered what he should do next.
His former village was avenged; he was avenged by destroying his former village. Perhaps it was time to show ninja what fools they were?
Perhaps it was time to show the world the true power of a jinchuuriki. There were things that were never meant to be done. Akuma would show them, all of them, that sealing a demon into a child was never a good idea.
The world would burn…the ninja villages would fall one by one starting with Oto…and perhaps Akuma would finally learn to laugh.